CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Jasmine Johnnae Clifton, 24, of Charlotte, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge David C. Keesler today and pleaded guilty to wire fraud for fraudulently obtaining a COVID-19 loan for almost $150,000 from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), announced William T. Stetzer, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.
Mona Passmore, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division, Charlotte Field Office (IRS-CI), and Tommy D. Coke, Inspector in Charge of the Atlanta Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which oversees Charlotte, join Acting U.S. Attorney Stetzer in making today’s announcement.
According to filed court documents and today’s plea hearing, Clifton engaged in a scheme to defraud the SBA by obtaining an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) based on false information. Court records show that Clifton created Jazzy Jas LLC, an online retail clothing sales business, in April 2019. On July 24, 2020, Clifton submitted a fraudulent loan application to the SBA for Jazzy Jas, despite the fact the company had been dissolved by Clifton several months prior. As a result of the fraudulent application, which included false information about revenues and a fraudulent tax document, Clifton obtained $149,900 in disaster relief funds that were intended to be provided to an existing business harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic. On or about August 14, 2020, the EIDL funds were deposited directly into Clifton’s bank account. Clifton used the government funds to make purchases at multiple diamond stores and at numerous retail stores, including at Nordstrom, Ikea, Neiman Marcus, Rooms To Go, Louis Vuitton, Best Buy and other retail shopping outlets.
Clifton remained on bond following today’s guilty plea. The charge of wire fraud carries a maximum prison term of 20 years and a $500,000 fine. A sentencing date has not been set.
The CARES Act is a federal law enacted March 29, 2020, and it is designed to provide emergency financial assistance to millions of Americans suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act established several new temporary programs and provided for the expansion of others, including the EIDL program, which is an SBA program that provides low-interest financing to small businesses, renters, and homeowners in regions affected by declared disasters.
In making today’s announcement Acting U.S. Attorney Stetzer thanked IRS-CI and USPIS for their investigation which led to the charges.
Assistant U.S. Attorney William Bozin, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte, is prosecuting the case.
The Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina remain vigilant in detecting, investigating, and prosecuting wrongdoing related to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you think you are a victim of coronavirus fraud or have information pertaining to fraud involving COVID-19, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or submit a complaint online using the NCDF Web Complaint Form. Members of the public in the Western District of North Carolina are also encouraged to call 704-344-6222 to reach their local Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator.
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